Adapted from Juan Carlos Rubio’s acclaimed play in Spain, 100 Metros Cuadrados—in which the playwright also co-writes with Bernabé Rico, One Careful Owner a.k.a. El Inconveniente is an unexpected character study masqueraded as a dry comedy. As it turns out, Rico’s full-feature debut is a little, rewarding treat for those giving this movie a chance. In a dialogue-heavy, limited-setting fashion, the movie takes everyone by surprise—delivering an emotionally genuine portrayal of human longing for connection and companion in the direst moment.
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In the heart of the story, there’s this young, ambitious woman, Sara (Juana Acosta, Perfect Strangers / Perfectos Desconocidos). She has the one shot to buy a dream house with a perfect location and magnificent view for price of a total steal. However, the terribly cheap price comes with a term—she has to shelter the house’s careful owner, or as the housing agent, Óscar Ramos (Carlos Areces), describes, “The Inconvenience” (hence the original Spanish title), Lola (Kiti Mánver) until she dies. It’s a logically bizarre decision, but Sara takes it and, unbeknownst to both of them, a strange connection begins to unravel between the two women in different stages of life.
Acosta and Mánver—veteran Spanish actress with multiple credits in Pedro Almodóvar’s movies or, as internationally known, prominent billing in Money Heist—make up a perfect ingredient for the movie. Their characters start connecting with one feud after another; Sara thinks of Lola like a pest living literally in closet, waiting to be naturally dying, meanwhile, Lola condemns Sara and, basically, everyone with her bitter attitude. With Lola’s bitter attitude and negative aura in her old age as well as her chain-smoking habit and multiple heart attack history, Sara keeps thinking that living with the old woman and waiting for her passing might not be a difficult job. The first half of the movie deals with Sara scolds Lola all the time and the latter keeps becoming what her “el inconveniente” moniker stands for.
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The treats come in waves in the later half of One Careful Owner. As both women live together for some time, they begin to find mutual struggles that they share differently. Sara and Lola’s respective lives, as it turns out, are not utterly different by miles. Lola has long known loneliness and rejection as her infidel former husband kept cheating on her; and now, she has to deal with the twilight year of her life alone without someone caring for her. Meanwhile, Sara buys the house as a coping mechanism for the love lost she just had and for her deteriorating health despite the young age. After all, the fear of dying and solitude forge their connection that leads to self-acceptance. Moments roll to another seamlessly as the movie guides the audiences from resenting to sympathizing with the characters.
When it starts, there’s gloomy feeling everywhere but the story optimistically keeps finding perspectives and makes the characters ponder upon it. Acosta and Mánver’s slowly budding chemistry guides us deeper into the story as it becomes more heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It’s, in the end, an uplifting reward for those who give One Careful Owner a go.